THE RAIL Delivery Group has announced a trial of simpler fares, which it says could lead to the ‘most radical overhaul of [the] fares system for more than 30 years’.

The trial includes the provision of best-value fares on a number of routes, along with the introduction of single-leg pricing for journeys between London and Edinburgh/ Glasgow. A 10-point plan and design guidelines for ticket machines also looks to improve information to passengers by getting rid of jargon and making clear what types of ticket machines do and do not sell.

Trials are due to start in May, focusing on three examples of fare anomalies:

■ Routing changes will be tested between London and Sheffield, where regulations date back to when direct services were much less frequent and a change of train was often needed via a longer route;

■ Best-price through fares will be tested on CrossCountry, aiming to remove expensive, obsolete fares which can be bettered by passengers who use split ticketing to combine a number of individual fares; and

■ Single-leg pricing will be tested on the London-Glasgow and London- Edinburgh routes so that passengers are always clear what the cheapest fare is, as currently it may be cheaper to book either two singles or the regulated off-peak return.

RDG says the improvements to ticket machines will be in place by the end of this year, with several in place by the summer.

The aim of the trials it to establish the changes needed to regulations and processes so that operators can offer simpler, easy-to-use fares. RDG says ‘decades-old government rules…originally intended to protect customers…have prevented train companies from being more flexible in offering tickets that customers want’.

Whilst these changes may see some significant price reductions for some longer-distance journeys offered by CrossCountry and other operators, industry sources confirmed to Modern Railways that the entire project will need to be ‘cost neutral’ in order to protect overall revenue. This may be met by increases in some advance fares, which are not regulated by the Department for Transport, in order to offset any loss of income from the changes being introduced. Tony Miles